So much is coming at you, it's easy to feel defeated. Learn how to shake off fear and rise again.
Divorce can feel like a tornado that has torn its way through your life and destroyed everything — your hopes, dreams, marriage, family and home — everything that made your life what it was. Now, it's all gone.
You're left staring at the wreckage and despite the fear, shock and wrenching grief, you know you need to hold yourself together and start figuring out how to (miraculously) make it all better again. After all, the kids still need to be cared for, new living arrangements need to be made, work still has to happen or be found, the pets still need to be cared for, groceries need to be bought, clothes need to be washed, the car needs to be maintained, bills need to be paid, and then there's all the legal stuff that must be dealt with on top of everything else. Oh, and somewhere in there you have your own emotional processing to do about the divorce itself.
You have to handle all of this now ... and do so entirely on your own.
This is divorce overwhelm, a state thrust upon most of us caught in the throes of divorce. We know that every single thing on our plate is important and that somehow we're supposed to figure out how to handle it all now ... this second! No matter how monumental the emotional waves of grief are washing over us. No matter how entirely drained of energy we feel. We are simply expected to get done what must be done.
This is the painful, confusing, and really challenging reality of divorce.
When my ex-husband and I decided to end our marriage, I felt this overwhelm acutely. Fueled by a unhealthy combination of adrenaline, fear, and Dr. Pepper, I eventually found a way to keep getting things done. I relied on these three things to keep me going because they worked (kind of) and, truthfully, I didn't think I had any other choice.
During my divorce, I wasn't able to sleep (I was lucky to get 4 to 5 hours a night at best). I could barely eat and became anorexic. I also had a deep fear that God was going to "smite" me because I was getting divorced. The overwhelm of my divorce journey made my life feel so crazy. But even in the middle of that chaos, I had the good sense to grasp on to what my friends and family were telling me — that there was a better and easier way to get through this.
Luckily, they were right.
The divorce process became much easier to handle once I realized that I had friends and family who really wanted to support and help me. In the pain and confusion of the divorce process, I forgot what having friends and family means. And, even though most of them didn't truly understand what I was going through, having not experienced divorce themselves, they still provided me with a much needed support system. I began to feel less alone and forgotten. I took comfort in remembering that I was still loved (and lovable) even if my marriage, which was supposedly based on love, had failed.
The support and presence of friends and family gave me a sense of safety, even if only a smidgen. With this tiny hint of safety, I became aware that I had been holding my breath a lot. In trying to stay perfectly quiet so I could be completely aware of my environment and deal with whatever new daily threat suddenly appeared (and there seemed to be so many) — I had stopped breathing. The full in and out of my breath was something I had to consciously return to. And once I did, I realized that living in a state of hyperawareness like that is exhausting.
Once my normal breathing returned to me, I could begin to relax again (or, at least try to). I experimented with methods my therapist and other loved ones suggested. I tried EFT, Rescue Remedy, Reiki, massage, exercise, eating differently, yoga, meditation, walks in nature, prayer, and simply remembered to take a few deep grounding breaths throughout the day. Each of these methods brought me some relief, but there was still so much to do with not enough time or energy in the day to get it all done.
I still primarily relied on adrenaline, fear and Dr Pepper.
At that point, I made my journey easier by finally asking for help. I asked my friends to listen to me so I could just express my feelings and talk things out. Talking helped me bring some organization to my chaotic and confusing thoughts about all of the conflicting priorities, endless tasks, rising fears, new responsibilities and frustrating legal stuff.
I asked a friend if his son would mow my lawn. I asked another friend if she would let my elderly dog out during the day while I was at work. I asked another friend to review my budget because I didn't know how I was going to be able to cover all of my bills. I asked my divorced friends (the ones who had successfully healed from their own divorces) how they did it.
And the amazing thing was that they all said yes.
I asked for help and I accepted it when friends and family were willing to give it. As a result, I felt a little less overwhelmed and my thinking began to clarify. With that clarity came another realization — that I had been creating a sense of panic and emergency that didn't necessarily exist all the time.
I didn't have to get everything done now. I could categorize and prioritize my endless list of must-be-dones into will-dos, will-get-help-doing and not-worth-my-time-or-energy-to-do. I began asking myself questions like, Is it really necessary that I run all these errands on my way home from work? Sometimes my answer was "yes"; sometimes my answer was "no"; and sometimes my answer was "just a few of them are necessary." By choosing what I wanted to do based only on what was most important to me and what was most consistent with my values and needs, I found the feeling of ease and freedom slowly returning. Making choices based on what best served me best freed me from the wreckage of my marriage, freed me from my constant sense of overwhelm, and freed me to start being "me" again.
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
What can you do to put a pause in your overwhelm? The overwhelm that most of us endure as part of divorce can be debilitating and harmful to your health. What from this conversation do you feel inspired to try? Whatever it is, I hope you'll begin doing it today.
Need more information about what doing your divorce recovery work is all about? Register and download your FREE copy of The 5 Things You Must Know About Your Divorce.